It was four years ago now, but I still remember vividly my excitement and anticipation in the weeks leading up to the start of university. Many of my friends and family always looked back on their time there fondly—some even longed to relive their university days. And it wasn’t hard to imagine why.
University would be full of chances to explore new passions and meet new people. The pantheon of clubs and special interest groups offered the prospect of exploration and discovery. What lay in front of me was opportunity as I’d never experienced before, and I was eager to grasp it with both hands.
However, my excitement was also tempered by a tinge of anxiety—amidst the plethora of interesting opportunities, it was easy to forget that university, after all, was about higher education. There were important academic deadlines to meet and exams to be had, and I suspected that there would be many long nights slogging it out, trying my best to conjure up an essay that met the word count set by my professors.
Once school started, I realized that it could get competitive too. When everyone and everything around you seems to revolve around getting a good grade point average and building a great resume, it’s hard not to get sucked in.
All this made for a little bit of a headache. On the one hand, there was so much opportunity to explore and learn; on the other hand, I definitely felt the pressure to do well academically. And how about balancing this with “Christian stuff”—like going to church and growing in my faith?
As a Christian, I wanted to mature in my relationship with God, as well as continue to serve in ministry. But I quickly realized, as I began this exciting new phase of my life, the tendency for my heart to wander from the Gospel. I was easily sucked in by the lifestyle and mindset of my non-Christian peers at school. Like them, I spent all my time attending different club activities and studying for my classes, and I found myself going days without praying or reading the Bible. I also became practiced at hiding my spiritual malpractice from my friends at church, but I knew that I wasn’t fooling God.
When it came down to it, the opportunities to try new and exciting things just felt too good to pass up. On top of that, I wanted to achieve academic success, lest I lose out to my peers who seemed driven to invest their time and energy in university building a prosperous future career. It seemed that devoting time to Christian stuff would cause me to miss out on the university life that all my friends were living.
Juggling these three things—the opportunities, academics, and my walk with Christ—was something that I struggled with as university kicked into gear.
But things started to change after I heard a sermon on 1 Corinthians 15, where the Apostle Paul worked to convince his readers about the resurrection of the dead. For Paul, the resurrection wasn’t an abstract immaterial process. Rather, it was a certain event with real and physical results. As Christians, according to Paul, we will have a physical resurrected body as well as a physical new creation to live in.
In the sermon, the pastor challenged us to live in light of this physical resurrection and new creation; being convinced of what awaits us should transform the way we live today. For me, this meant that I didn’t need to capitalize on every opportunity presented to me in university, because I would have a chance to live my best life in the new and perfected world that God was creating for us.
It also meant that while investing in my future career was important, its significance waned when I considered what would have true eternal value. The truth was that the many of the things that I desired—career success, a nice house, and a flashy car—wouldn’t last to eternity. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
As my convictions on the resurrection and the new creation deepened, I found myself spending more and more time on things that carried eternal value—things that would last me into the new creation. I became more engaged in my university campus ministry, where I attended Bible studies and learned how to hear God speak through His Word. This helped me to become more certain about God’s will for my life as a Christian in university—that I should be living for the Gospel instead of for my selfish desires. As such I devoted more time to reading the Bible, praying, and serving in my campus ministry.
It was here that I made like-minded friends, who became a great source of encouragement to me through the four years that I spent in university. Whenever I was tempted to become consumed by things that were insignificant in light of eternity, these friends reminded me of what we’d been reading in God’s Word. They also prayed with me and for me, whenever the struggle against my flesh seemed too hard to bear.
Furthermore, I began to take evangelism on campus more seriously. After all, I was meeting new people all the time, people who needed to hear the Gospel. While it was fine to just have fun and pursue friendships, the truly loving thing to do for my new friends would be to tell them about Jesus Christ, so that they too would be able to enjoy a relationship with Him and be a part of the new creation.
Four years on, I’ve now graduated from university with my bachelor’s degree. Looking back, there were definitely opportunities that I failed to take advantage of. There were a handful of clubs that I would’ve liked to have participated in; I could’ve grown my interest in the areas of film, music, and photography. Perhaps, I also could have achieved more academically. My grades were alright, but I know that had I put in more hours hitting the books, I definitely would have graduated with the distinction that some of my close friends did.
But today I also look forward to the new creation, and the hope of eternal life that Jesus has accomplished for us. In light of what awaits us, I don’t have to feel like I’m losing out or that I wasted my time in university.
If you’re starting university and you’re fighting the temptation to get sucked into the lifestyle of your non-Christian friends, be assured that your struggle is not in vain. In fact, I’m convinced that on that glorious day, standing on the cusp of the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21:1-4), we will have no doubt that the choices we made in university were worth it.